My thoughts have turned in the past week to memories of experiences difficult to classify using the categories we commonly operate within in the course of daily life. I can remember such experiences all the way back to early adulthood. They form their own thread of continuity over the course of my lifetime. In my current phase of life with plenty of time to pay attention to such things, I’m intrigued by what those experiences actually mean and what they say about the nature of human beingness. I’ll provide some examples and then some thoughts on the matter. One of the major blessings of retirement is the freedom to let one’s thoughts wander into realms that the workaday world never approaches. There’s more to life than Death By Cubicle, I’m happy to relate. 🙂 So here we go.
First off, a definition of terms. What precisely do I mean by “Greater Reality?” It’s best to regard it as a catch-all term, containing anything outside the parameters commonly defined by our culture as “normal” in the domain of human consciousness. According to those lights, then, intuition is normal but telepathy is not. Any clear and incontrovertible experience of telepathy stands outside the normal for our Western culture and finds no easy, broadly acceptable explanation. That’s different in other cultures, of course — an important point to remember. The Kogi people who live on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, for example, have telepathy well within their repertoire of the easily explained and broadly acceptable. In Kogi culture telepathy has always been just another way to communicate. For us in the West, however, it’s a woo-woo thing that doesn’t have the stamp of approval from science, which is what we use to decide whether something is legitimate or not. More fools us, if the truth be told. Who said science is omniscient? It’s anything but, however much we’d like to think tit’s the best thing since sliced bread.
When I think back over the experiences outside the normal range that I remember in my own life I see that they fall into more than one category. That information in and of itself is interesting because it points out the possibility that human consciousness is far more multifaceted than we believe it to be. I also discern a fine line in some experiences between the “normal” (i.e. acceptable) and the paranormal. That information is also useful because it shows that some capacities Western culture defines as usual — intuition, for example — can easily shade into a related paranormal category such as telepathy. How do you tell when you’ve crossed the line — blurry at the best of times — between an intuition that something has happened or that someone is thinking a particular thing and an awareness so strong that it has nothing of the vagueness of an intuition? We don’t bother ourselves with such niceties as a general rule. They’re worth thinking about, though, for the implications they reveal about who and what we really are.
Rather than elaborate some all-inclusive theory of human consciousness that will brand me as a complete crank I’ll just put forward descriptions of experiences I remember very clearly. I’ll then draw a few conclusions about those experiences, leaving far more questions unanswered than answered in the process, to be sure.
Experience 1: Meta-awareness in the Forest
This experience happened to me when I was in my early twenties. I remember it as clearly as the day it happened. That’s way with these things outside the “normal,” they make a lasting impression. There I was, out for a wander in the early summer in the hills behind our house (in the boondocks) enjoying the fine weather and the flush of new growth. There’s a small lake nestled in the cup where three mountains meet, probably about a mile from the house up a path that ascends the hillsides to the plateau where the lake sits. It’s a lovely spot, the lake, and I always went up there in the late spring and early summer to see the wildflowers. From the lake a stream runs down the hillside through a draw with steep sides covered in birch forest. It’s one of my favorite areas of all, with plants that occur only in that very moist environment — such as Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus) whose botanical name tells the story. It has spikes on the stems that do indeed look like the work of Satan. Here’s a pic:
On the way up to the lake there’s a birch copse on a level spot just before you begin the last uphill bit before reaching the lake. It’s always been my equivalent of Lothlorien. If the Lady Galadriel had to pick a spot in that area for her hangout, it would be the birch copse, I’m sure. I dawdled there for a while, combing through the understorey to see what was growing and enjoying the flowers of the thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus). Here’s a pic to show why dawdling made such good sense:
The path from the birch copse up the hillside is an easy walk with a gentle slope. At the end of the climb you arrive at a plateau where the vegetation changes immediately. It’s an old place with huge larch trees (Larix occidentalis), some of which still show signs of a massive forest fire that tore through the area in 1910. As you wend your way through the larch grove you come eventually to the little lake, sitting in the basin of the surrounding mountains. Here’s a pic of the lake with fall colors in the poplars:
I enjoyed the walk as I always do but there was nothing about the experience outside the “normal” until I reached the plateau near the lake. Then a change occured in my awareness that I’m at pains to explain, however well I can describe it. My perception of things became dimensionalized in a way that I don’t experience in regular, day-to-day consciousness. Everything I perceived had extra dimensions that became perceptible to me in that altered state. It was as though I perceived an underlying, substrate reality from which the physical reality I walked through continually emerged. The substrate layer was physical but not material, that point was very clear in my awareness. To put it another way, it was as though I were seeing the soul of the place as well as its body. I’ve always thought that area beautiful but with this added dimension of awareness its beauty became transcendent. As I walked in amazement at the beauty of things I found a wild clematis (Clematis occidentalis) in bloom and stood before it transfixed by its loveliness. My awareness of the substrate beingness from which it emerged as a physical phenomenon became even stronger, to the point that the substrate reality and the physical manifestation were absolutely inseparable. In the “normal” state of consciousness, of course, we perceive only the physical phenomenon.
So what changed in my awareness? Beats me. That it changed is incontrovertible because I experienced it. I had a massive intimation of Greater Reality.
Experience 2: Somebody Shows Up But Isn’t There
This experience also happened in my twenties, a few years after the one described above. I had been engaged as an assistant-slash-caretaker by an elderly couple. The wife was struggling with cancer when I began the position. The couple was well-known in musical circles in the city and fancied themselves fixtures of the city’s cultural life. The husband was insufferable. It was clear to me from the get-go that the wife had chafed for long years under his domination, which had badly twisted her personality. In a word, she had become as insufferable as her husband.
When things were heading into the end game the husband, who was blind, was taken down to the hospital so he could be present for the wife’s passing. I was given the task of holding down the fort in their house since it was winter and things like snow removal from the driveway etc. needed attending to. I was alone in the house for two full days after the husband went to the hospital for the final vigil. During that time I had no communication with anybody associated with either the husband or the wife — I was, after all, an employee, not a family member.
In the night of the second day I awoke sensing very strongly a presence despite there being nobody else in the house. I knew immediately it was the wife and that she had passed. She was angry with a capital A. Her presence was like a scream. Quite spontaneously I focused my attention on the presence and said aloud, “It’s over, you can go now.” Within 30 seconds the presence faded and things returned to the calm that had been present before I awoke. The next morning I received a call from the husband telling me that the wife had passed during the night.
The only possible explanation of the experience is that the personality of a deceased person made itself discernible to a living person through some mechanism completely outside any “normal” explanation we have available. I know what I experienced. The mechanics of that experience remain completely opaque to my understanding. Science has no ready answers for such things. Be that as it may, my experience is not something I just dreamed up out of nowhere. What happened, happened. Its reality is for me incontrovertible.
Experience 3: Knowing Something Before You Know It
This experience dates from my early 40’s. I had decided to move from the university where I was working to a new position so I applied and interviewed for a post two states away. The trip and the interview were a hurried affair and although I performed fairly well at during the interview day I wasn’t sure I’d nailed it. So I drove myself back to where I was living and carried on. It’s the way with academic searches that you never know how long they’ll go on before the committee reaches a decision. A couple weeks passed without any word. One afternoon as I was working in my office I suddenly felt an awareness spread through my mind: I got it. I was as sure in that moment that I had been chosen for the position as I would have been had I just got off the phone with the head of the committee. The next day the committee head did indeed call and offer me the position.
Of course I said nothing about the experience to anyone — it’s not the sort of thing one can talk about. Obviously there were other channels of communication in operation than the ones we use normally, but what were they? How do they function? What triggers their activation in our consciousness since they obviously don’t operate under conscious control? All questions, no answers. But again, my experience left no doubt in my mind and I didn’t question the knowledge that came to me through that channel.
Experience 4: A Helping Hand From Out of the Blue
This experience occurred when I was in my early 50’s and living off the grid on property my family owns. I had abandonded academia and hoped never to return, having become sick unto death with the entire business. Hailing from the Bitter North as I do, winter can take quite a brutal turn upon occasion. Exactly that had happened — temperatures of -15F at night, highs during the day of 10F if luck was with you. As long as I stayed near my cabin and kept the woodstove amply fed things went along swimmingly. Being outside for any length of time in such temperatures, however, is dangerous. The cabin lay three-quarters of a mile off the nearest county road and was only accessible in winter by walking in from the road. It was impossible to keep the track back to the cabin cleared of snow. All well and good in common winter temperatures — I just bundled up and hiked out to the car, which I left parked off the side of the county road. But when the temperature drops below zero a three-quarter mile hike becomes quite a different matter. Even so, life must go on. When the groceries run out, you do what you gotta do.
So I bundled myself up and headed out to the car with my fingers crossed that it would start. I walked at a medium pace to keep my breathing slow and shallow. In that kind of cold taking in a breath was no fun. Scuba gear would have been the ticket. Despite my efforts I realized about two-thirds of the way to the car that it was becoming more and more difficult to breathe. I slowed down for a moment as the thought crossed my mind, “I’m not sure I can make it to the car. What do I do then?” Getting back to the woodstove in the cabin was a good piece farther than getting to the car — not a happy thought.
At that point the experience happened. I suddenly sensed a rush of bright energy come from I knew not where and swirl around my head. It wasn’t visible physically like a mist or some such thing but its shape was perceptible to my awareness nonetheless. A strand of the energy curled upward near my nose and all of a sudden I felt the air I took in become warmer and my breathing become easier. I quickened my pace and walked on with the certainty that I would reach the car without difficulty. That’s exactly what happened and lo and behold the car started without any problem. Mirabile dictu.
Despite that experience being some 15 years in the past I can remember every moment of it as clearly as if it had happened an hour ago. I have no explanation for it, but whatever the source of the energy or the energy itself might be, I owe it an enormous debt of gratitude. As I think back on it — which I do periodically since it happened these many years ago — I consider it one of the most significant experiences of my life. Again, I can no more explain it than fly to the moon, but the reality of it is incontrovertible for me based on my own experience.
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
It’s clear to me from these experiences and others like them that there’s some reality larger than the one we define for ourselves as “normal.” What constitutes reality is as much defined by civilizational and social norms as anything else. We in the West, for example, disavow telepathy as a normal feature of human capacity. As I mentioned above, Kogi culture accepts it as a piece of normality and uses it as such. I suspect that we in the West have sold ourselves very short with regard to our normality, which could be twice again as big and still have room for expansion.
In the West we put all the reality beyond the day-to-day stuff in the grab-bag of religion. People pray for assistance, for personal benefit, for all manner of things, but the locus of power and action is located outside the human dimension. One asks for intervention from an outside agency. This leaves us stuck in our daily reality hoping as we pray that good things will happen. Other religions operate in much the same way. One of the phrases a Muslim says many times a day is “Insha’Allah” — “if God wills it.” The powerlessness of the individual to assume agency for the workings of greater reality is equally pronounced in the Islamic tradition. If God wills it, it will happen, but if not, then no cigar.
When I consider the experiences I describe above the most important element all of them exhibit is spontaneity. They were unprepared in any way. I didn’t pray, meditate or do anything of the sort before they happened. Not being at all a religious person, I find it impossible to believe that the usual mechanisms of religious practice or belief had anything to do with them. Their spontaneity makes obvious to me an authenticity that must reside in the nature of human consciousness itself.
Having had such experiences as a young adult I was impelled to investigate what lies outside the “normal” as we define it in our culture. As timing would have it, my early adult years were lived during the development of the New Age movement, which put quite a number of resources at my fingertips. The material written by Jane Roberts ostensibly channelled from the entity called “Seth” figured largely in my early search for answers. I continued the search for several years but eventually decided that the larger reality described in the material I read failed to have any substantive impact on the sphere of normality we inhabit by default. That decision was less a rejection of the premises put forward in the material I read than it was resignation to the fact that an effective relationship between the paranormal and the normal always failed to materialize no matter how conscientiously I followed the program laid out for making that happen.
The nature of reality within our sphere of normality has never improved. At the collective level it only became worse with time, not better. Look where we are now — on the brink of irreversible human-induced climate change, with authoritarian governments springing up around the world and the future far more precarious than when I was a young adult thinking about how to live a lifetime. Things have decidedly not become better. So what’s the use of all this w00-woo stuff if it makes no difference in the way life gets lived in space and time on the Planet? The same thought comes up when I consider the matter of religions. If indeed by their fruits ye shall know them then we’ve ended up with a whole lotta nothing from a few thousand years of religious fervor across the globe.
My experiences show me incontrovertibly that Greater Reality exists. To my mind the most important agenda for “normal” life should be to develop and make tangible whatever relationship we have to Greater Reality so that it becomes a practical element of our lives. That the nature of Greater Reality tends toward the facilitation and improvement of life stands beyond question. The creation of benefit either for myself or for someone else formed the baseline of every interaction with Greater Reality I’ve had over the course of my lifetime. How wonderful a thing it would be to have that sense of potential benefit become part of daily life through the cultivation of the connection we have to Greater Reality as a function of our very beingness — since the inherent nature of that connection also stands beyond question in my opinion. I would not have had the experiences I had were the connection dependent on the creation and maintenance of certain conditions not native to the human beingness.
So I think it important to give credit where credit is due. Greater Reality deserves credit for the benefit it brings through experiences like those I myself have had. Likewise, human beingness deserves more credit than we give it due to its capacity to interact natively with Greater Reality. My experiences over the years have led me at this point in my lifetime — now in its final phase — to focus on the concept of Highest Good. Experience shows me that the nature of Greater Reality is based on Highest Good — for me, for reality in general. By aligning myself with Highest Good I align myself with Greater Reality. I can think of no better life stance.
Even after all these years I still wonder intently about the details of the larger reality my experiences hint at. I’ll continue my search for the rest of my life, I’m sure. With any luck, the closer I come to entering Greater Reality myself the more knowledge I’ll gain about it and about how it works. If I have any huge revelations, I’ll be back at the keyboard typing them up for your delectation, not to worry. 🙂